A fabulous evening of Bluegrass with “5 on a String”

Bluegrass Band 5 on a String put on a great show for Mayne Islanders last Wednesday evening August 1st, at Shavasana Gallery. With ferries plying Active Pass as a scenic backdrop, the boys entertained a crowd of 75 for over 2 hours with a great selection of original and traditional bluegrass tunes. We have a very inviting grassy area behind the Gallery which makes for lovely outdoor concert seating, and the weather, which has been quite hot recently, shed a few degrees to make the evening comfortable for all.


Band members Hugh Ellenwood (Fiddle, lead and bass vocals), Garry Stevenson (Guitar, lead and baritone vocals), Gordie Sadler (Banjo, lead and tenor vocals), Dan Mornar (Upright Bass, lead and tenor vocals), and Tim Eccles (Mandolin, lead and tenor vocals), have been playing together for nearly 30 years http://5onastring.com/ , and their on-stage humour and camaraderie reflects this lengthy bond – as does their music!

The Band also quite generously donated 50% of the door to a worthy local cause – “Arts on Mayne”, which, along with the proceeds from some delicious baked goods donated by local bakers – Astrid Bellem & Brenda Webster – brought in over $650 for the organization.

Here’s a video from the evening which gives a nice feel for the mood and the music of     5 on a String:

Outdoor Bluegrass Concert at Shavasana – Aug. 1, 7:30pm

Bluegrass Band “5 on a String” returns to Mayne Island for an outdoor* concert which will be held at Shavasana Gallery & Café on Wednesday August 1 at 7:30pm. Last year they gave a fabulously entertaining show when they performed at the Groove as part of M.I. fundraising activities in support of saving St. John Point – thanks Guys! This year they are once again – quite generously – donating 50% of all ticket sales to “Arts on Mayne” (formerly known as the Mayne chapter of the Southern Gulf Islands Arts Council) before they continue on their way to a gig on Saltspring and then onwards to the annual Bluegrass Festival in Coombs.

This years concert will be staged on the outdoor grassy area behind Shavasana Gallery (457 Village Bay Road) which has a stunning view overlooking Active Pass. Weather permitting, we will be able to enjoy their music while ferries ply the waters and the sun slowly sets over Galiano. Tickets are $15 and may be purchased at Shavasana Gallery, Thursday thru Sunday, or at the door. A limited number of chairs, blankets and pillows will be available, but please bring a folding chair or blanket in case we run out 🙂

As an aside, I’ve known Gordie Sadler the banjo player for 5 on a String for over 40 years. We used to jam together and it’s so great to see him remaining true to his Bluegrass roots after all these years. Here is a little bio from their website:

“We began playing as 5 on a String back in 1989, when Gordie, Garry, and Dan got together with other musicians to play together informally.  One thing lead to another and before long the band was invited to play at some of the regions most prominent Bluegrass Festivals including; Darrington, Wintergrass, and Chilliwack.  About 10 years ago founding member Carrol Oldenburg (mandolin) left the band and we were pleased to add multi-instrumentalist and lead singer Tim Eccles in his spot. Another year later Vancouver fiddle player Hugh Ellenwood agreed to enlist after the retirement of our original fiddler, Val Dean.   It’s been wonderful to perform all across B.C., Alberta, and Washington state over the years and the friends, fans, and relationships we have shared are priceless to us.   We hope that we can bring our brand of mountain music to your venue someday soon.”

Here is a wee taste of what you’ll be hearing on August 1 …..

If you’re interested in booking them for an event or have any questions, you can reach them through their website: http://5onastring.com/

See you at the show!

*weather permitting…if it rains we’ll move inside 🙂


The Drunk, the Blind Man, and the Ukulele Player

Small islands seem to attract their fair share of dreamers, spiritualists, creative types, rogues & non-conformists.  Some come to escape the cacophony and rigor of urban existence, some come to build their alternative universe retirement dream, while many come to relax and play on this part-time fair-weather-friend holiday rock. The absence of police or any recognizable form of authority can add a lawless frontier edge to peoples activities and expectations. When you operate a small Gallery Café on just such an island – as I do – any and all of these people may walk through your door, and indeed, are encouraged to do so. On occasion they all arrive at once, and interweave into a lovely Felliniesque tapestry. I always consider it a blessing to be part of a notable absurdity.

It’s a warm & lovely Friday in July 2016. It’s late morning, all the windows of the Gallery are open as is the front door which offers an inviting access for all who wish to drop by for coffee & chitchat and a glimpse of Anita Edward’s art show, “Forgotten Gardens”. While I am otherwise engaged in pleasant mindless café duties, an off-island woman named Dralene wanders in, plunks herself down, and asks if it would be ok to play tunes on her ukelele for the smattering of guests.  I’m always delighted when musicians show up unannounced so encourage her to play freely for as long as she likes. Apparently she IMG_1456was on Mayne to attend the annual “Bob-b-que” with friends – a celebration of the life and music of Bob Dylan at which she would contribute her ukelele chops. She sings a little Bob, a little this and that, “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” as memory (and my Journal) attests, and generally proceeds to entertain my guests and I for the next couple of hours. Shortly after she began, my friend Paul G. appeared while on a bike trip from Vancouver followed by two island friends Angie & Tim. Tim – a truly admirable & remarkable fellow – had recently lost his vision with a sudden onset of blindness which, understandably, had thrust him into new challenges and steep learning curves, which he accepted without complaint in his good-natured manner.

I introduced he and Angie to Paul and Dralene while a few others sat sipping their drinks at outside tables. Just as Angie excused herself to go, another friend – Gail – wandered into the shop, also sporting a ukelele which she proceeded to play with Dralene. You can never have too many ukeleles at a farce. My musicians soon realized that maybe it was best to take their jam outside and allow inside guests to have quiet conversation if they were not so ukelele inclined. Paul & Tim and I began some important dialogue about issues and opinions (God knows what we talked about – Donald Trump wasn’t in office yet)…and then, the drunk showed up.

I don’t remember the drunks name and indeed it’s not important to the story. It’s shortly before noon on Friday and he’s noticeably pissed. He’s carrying a bottle of what seems to be Coke and what I gather was laced with rum – “for aye! He were a seafarin’ man” By his own braggadocio, “One of the best boat designers in Canada…came here by boat…just down at the dock” He slurred in his slightly wobbly aggressive way. It seemed that he’d either lost or forgotten his cell phone charger and was now on some kind of angry rampage to track one down on our island. Finding all islanders collectively responsible for his stupidity and our failure for not having an electronics supply shop for his needs. “This is a shitty island, ye can’t even buy a cell phone charger.” “Where can I get one? You’ve got one, I’ll buy it from you” “Uh no, sorry, mine’s not for sale” I said. “C’mon…I’ll give you a hundred bucks – how much do you want? I need it because I’m part of the Emergency Disaster Response team” he belligerently blurted. “Dude” I thought, “you are a disaster – how can you possibly be part of an emergency response team?” I was starting to get angry with this guy, and, as one does with unpredictable drunks, was sizing him up in case I had to physically evict him from the Gallery. Like I mentioned earlier, there are no cops on Mayne so people sometimes feel empowered to break the rules. Meanwhile the ukeleles kept playing and my dialogue with my friends became intermittent as the obnoxious comments and demands of the drunk kept superseding our collective rationality. Trying to be a nice guy I said, “Tell you what, you can charge your phone here with my charger and that will at least get you on your way” (and you can take your unpleasant tirade to some other island, I thought) When you are dealing with such an obvious out-of-control alcoholic you need to be on your guard though, for their thoughts and actions can be chaotic. This ramps up the stress level. After 20 or 30 minutes of annoying commentary, he asked me to give him my Social Insurance Number to show me how good he was at memorizing numbers. My level of tolerance was reaching it’s end, and this request tipped it over into mild anger “I’m not giving you my fucking Social Insurance Number” I glared. The ukelele ladies kept the background music steady and incongruous when suddenly, Tim changed the subject. “Do you know anything about Razors?” he asked. “Huh?” I turned to look at him, welcoming the distraction from the Drunken Sea Captain, “You mean like, shaving razors?” I said, “Yeah” said Tim as he pulled a little baggie from his pocket with a shaving razor in it. “Since I lost my sight” he said, “I can’t figure out how to open this up, can you show me?” We are now operating at max-Fellini. I take Tim and his razor outside because I’m afraid of dumping his beard hairs on my floor – preferring to do it on my front lawn beside the Ukelele Duo. Meanwhile the drunk is swigging and staggering his way around my gallery. Paul is absorbing the spectacle. I’m picking up pieces of my blind buddies razor off my front lawn, as Jeffery the quirky Karl Marx look-alike shows up with his rather demure Japanese girlfriend Meg.

I’m in some kind of strange inexplicable heaven – a conductor to all of these collective moments on the stage of my café. But like all moments, they must pass, the participants have to move on to new adventures. Paul had to hit the road to continue his bike trip. Tim armed with his new manageable razor picked up his white cane to walk home. The ukulele sisters collected themselves to rendezvous with the rest of their day and the drunk, with his newly-charged cell phone in hand grumbled his way out the door and down the street to his next misadventure. Like an unexpected summer storm, the players breezed in unannounced, gave a dramatic show and then left. I returned to the pleasant tasks at hand..greeting more guests…pouring a little coffee, and talking about the beauty of the art upon my walls.

Addenda: Later, over dinner on the lovely deck of the Springwater Lodge, my friend Paul and I commiserated on the days events when Paul pulled a book from his backpack “The Course of Love” by Alain de Botton, a book which he felt I might like. The premise being  “the magnificent, sometimes frightening, developments we can make as we slowly realise that love is in essence a skill we need to learn rather than an enthusiasm we simply experience.”  It was a glorious day. 🙂